Pete Logan
Special to The Gardner News
The cancellation of the 2020 Kansas girls’ high school soccer season due to the COVID-19 outbreak across the country came as a heavy blow to the three senior members of the Gardner-Edgerton High School girls soccer squad. However, according to Derek Wilson, their head coach, the trio of seniors were able to move past it with the same persistence they had shown as Trailblazer players.
“When we broke our last practice before Spring Break,” said Wilson of the last time he saw his team in its entirety, “I told them we were not going to be around each other for a while. After watching everything on the news around Kansas, I — personally — thought we’d be back in April; that we’d have a couple extra weeks of Spring Break.”
“When I got word that the season was cancelled, my first thought was for the seniors. I was devastated for them. I also felt bad because we are so young as a team. We’re full of talent, but it’s mostly freshman and sophomores. We lost a year of developing them in the program, and we lost a year of what the seniors could teach them. But the seniors eventually recognized that sometimes there are things in life that you can’t control, and you have to get around it as best you can. They took it as one of life’s lessons.”
Senior Maya Ploetz, who recently signed to play soccer at the University of Saint Mary, will be extremely difficult to replace in the Blazer program. A starter at goalie for all three years she played GEHS soccer, Ploetz etched her name in the school record books as the all-time leader in saves for the girls’ program — despite not having a final high school season. As a player and a student, Ploetz’s impact was deeply felt.
“She’s one of the best goalies I’ve ever seen,” Wilson said of his keeper. “She was wonderful to have as a player because she was so focused on what she needed to do as a goalie. She was also very involved in student life, in Student Council. She earned all sorts of academic scholarships. She was headed to Nationals for DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) before the outbreak cancelled her trip. She is a real role model, the type of kid you want in your School. We’re going to miss her in the program, but the school will miss her as well.”
Ploetz’s senior teammate, Anna Tropansky, also played in goal for three years in the program and just happened to have the misfortune of having to play behind the best keeper the girls’ team had ever had. Still, Tropansky showed enough in her time to earn a soccer scholarship to Ottawa University. The work ethic and talent Tropansky displayed convinced her head coach that she would have been the number one goalie for most of the other teams the Trailblazers squared off against.
“She’s a great leader in the weight room and really cares about the game and about the growth of the program,” stated Wilson. “She earned a lot of scholarships. She was actually going to sit out this season because she was banged up most of her career, so she was just going to rest her body. In any other program, she would have been the varsity goalie.”
Senior Kaylee Hawkinson was entering her fourth year in the program. The speedy forward was known for her ability to get behind the defense and apply continual pressure on the offensive end. According to her head coach, her work ethic — and her positive attitude — is how she will be remembered in the program.
“Kaylee worked really hard,” Wilson stated. “She was a leader by example. She was really fast and pressed the other team. She hustled and had a big heart. She’s also probably one of the most friendly kids on the team.”
Though Wilson only got to coach this year’s seniors for their junior campaigns and part of this year’s preseason, he knows full well that they have left a legacy of hard work, dedication, and sharing their love and knowledge of the game of soccer.
“This year’s seniors have left a huge impact on the program,” said Wilson. “They were really good about teaching the underclassmen anything they knew. This program will miss them dearly.”